CHINATOWN — When the new Chinatown branch of the Chicago Public Library opens next year, it will be unlike any other facility in the city, library officials said.
Among the features touted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and library commissioner Brian Bannon at Tuesday's groundbreaking ceremony were a YOUmedia center for teens, state-of-the-art technology and an unprecedented early childhood education program.
The focus on kids "indicates a strategy we're trying to pursue," Emanuel said. "It's not libraries over here and our schools over there. They're all serving a single unified mission, which is the education of our children, the support of our families and our neighborhoods and our communities."
Bannon, who along with Emanuel was recently praised the White House for innovations in public libraries, said the new library would "reflect the history, culture and richness of the Chinatown neighborhood."
In addition to the tech upgrades, the library will have a special Chinese language and heritage collection, host the city's new teacher-in-library-program and Rahm's Readers summer reading program and have expanded study and community rooms, Bannon said.
The library is expected to open in May 2015.
The two-story facility, designed by Wight and Co. and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, will be built in the 2100 block of South Wentworth Avenue to relieve overcrowding at the existing facility at 2353 S. Wentworth Ave., which the city rents from a private landlord and is considered one of the city's busiest branches.
Last year, the City Council approved the release of $15 million in Tax Increment Financing funds from the 24th/Michigan TIF fund to buy three parcels of land in Chinatown for the new building, located just west of the renovated Chinatown-Cermak CTA Red Line stop.
The library will open roughly around the same time a series of new Chinatown projects will be nearing completion.
Emanuel last month announced three neighborhood upgrades — the long-planned realignment of busy Wentworth and Cermak avenues, pedestrian upgrades and the creation of the "Wells-Wentworth Connector" that will run straight through a plot of vacant riverside land.
At Tuesday's ceremony, Ald. Danny Solis (25th) said the library would be yet another badge of pride for Chinatown, which has in recent years seen the creation of a new riverside boathouse and field house.
"It will be another jewel to the crown Chinatown is becoming," he said.
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